Sunday, February 20, 2011

UFC 127 Penn vs. Fitch Preview

You know MMA has finally arrived when only one week has passed since the last major fight card on pay-per-view and you start to feel like you can't wait till the next one. On the heels of Strikeforce's electric card last weekend and Anderson Silva's front kick heard around the world @ UFC 126, just two weeks ago, we are less than one week away from UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia.

This potential 'Thunder from Down Under' is highlighted by a possible number one contender's match between former lightweight (155 lbs.) champion B.J. 'The Prodigy' Penn, now fighting at welterweight (170 lbs.), and Jon Fitch, winner of five straight. Also on the card is the guaranteed throwdown between middleweight (185lbs.) contenders Michael 'The Count' Bisping and Jorge 'El Conquistador' Rivera, along with some other intriguing match-ups.

Of course, it's all about the main event and it includes one of the most fan favorite fighters of all-time; B.J. Penn (16-7-1, 7 KO's 6 subs), who continuously reinvents himself every time you think his best days are behind him. It's strange to say this about a 32 year old fighter, who should be considered to be in his prime, but 'The Prodigy' has been in this game 10 years come this May. Hard to believe, but true, and in Fitch he's facing a naturally bigger man who may not be the flashiest fighter, but is definitely skilled.

Fitch (23-3, 5 KO's, 5 subs), a former Division One wrestler at Purdue University, is now a well-rounded mixed martial artist that has perennially been in the top ten and better for years. His only loss in the last eight years was a unanimous decision to Georges St. Pierre in a previous bid for the welterweight title. Since then, he's reeled off five straight decision wins, which hurts him when it comes to fan support. Nonetheless, he's reinforced his game while training at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, CA and in the process has earned a black belt in "Guerilla" Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under renowned trainer Dave Camarillo.

As much as I love Penn and I would not put it past him to finish this fight either by a KO or submission, I'm picking Fitch by decision here. Besides Fitch's natural size and strength advantage, I think that a three round fight bodes well in his favor against Penn versus a five rounder. I feel Fitch has developed enough skills, standing and on the ground, to avoid any mistakes in just 15 minutes of fight time. I anticipate he'll take Penn down and maul him over the course of the fight, similar to what St. Pierre did in his second fight against Penn. Besides, Fitch's 33rd birthday is three days before the fight and I'm anticipating a huge celebration.

As stated above, if the fireworks don't blast off in the main event, it's probably because they would have exploded in the fight previous to it. That's because I'm expecting nothing less in the co-main event between Bisping and Rivera. These two, who possess the gift of gab, have been trash talking one another to comedic levels and now it's time to put up or shut up. Bisping (20-3, 12 KO's 4 subs), the former 'Ultimate Fighter' Season Three winner, is the bad boy from England that U.S. fans love to hate. Winner of his last two fights, and six out of his last eight, 'The Count', embraces the villain role and usually relishes in it.

On the contrary, Rivera (19-7, 13 KO's 2 subs), a veteran at 38 years of age, has resurrected his career both in the cage and out. (6-2) in his last eight fights, including three in a row, 'El Conquistador' has won the fans over with his knockout power and willingness to put on a show. Rededicating himself after the loss of his teenage daughter to illness a couple of years ago, Rivera looks primed and ready for what he admits is probably his final run. He's also displayed quite a sense of humor while using all facets of the world wide web, including YouTube and Facebook, to appease his fans and talk trash on his opponent.

Not only has he won the war of words, but I think he'll win the fight as well via knockout. That's assuming Bisping decides to stand and trade instead of taking the fight to the ground where he's quite effective at pounding his opponents into submission via punches in bunches. I don't think either have an advantage over the other in the ground game, thus the reason I think it will stand long enough for Rivera to find his range and catch the battling Brit with a right hand. Curious to see where the winner stands in the UFC middleweight pecking order after this one.

Another interesting fight with major implications is the lightweight tilt between Germany's Denis Siver (17-7, 5 KO's 9 subs) and Australia's own George Sotiropoulos (14-2, 1 KO, 8 subs). Siver, a kickboxer with excellent ground skills, has won his last two and six out of his last seven with only one win going to decision. Meanwhile, the home country boy Sotiropoulos is riding an eight fight winning streak and has a potential number one contender spot riding on this fight; that is per UFC President Dana White, this past weekend.

With the momentum of all those victories on his side along with an entire country on his shoulders and the chance at a title fight, I can't see any way Sotiropoulous loses this fight. With an adequate stand-up game and a very slick high level jiu-jitsu game on the ground, I expect the Aussie to win this fight and do so in convincing fashion; most likely via submission. If that happens, I expect him to face the winner of Frankie Edgar/Gray Maynard III for the lightweight title.

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